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Don't Wait on Wolf for Pensions

by John Eichelberger
 

On Tuesday, the General Assembly embarked on a new legislative session.

But since last November's election, we have heard the chorus of special interest groups attempting to shape the agenda for the new administration and the legislature.

Many of those demands on government by special interests are requests for higher spending, designed to benefit that specific group without regard to cuts to other services or tax increases that affect everyone.

Pennsylvania, once the center of America's industrial strength, is bloated with current debt and is obligated to pay for expected financial shortcomings in the future.

With financial ratings from Standard ~Poor's and Moody's ranking the Commonwealth 47th and 48th respectively, and having the second worst pension debacle in the nation, it is time to confront some harsh realities.

Pennsylvanians deserve action on sustainable public employee retirement plans, fiscal and academic accountability in our public schools, a convenient and competitively priced alcohol distribution system, and an equitable arbitration process to keep more police and firefighters on the streets.

The problems facing Pennsylvania are so pressing that waiting weeks more to address them is a disservice to the taxpayers.
These issues and many others have been held captive for far too long by public- sector unions and others who profit from the status quo.

Restructuring government services, reducing the impediments to private sector job growth, protecting the constitutional rights of our citizens, and good government reforms -- including higher ethical standards -- are imperative and immediate needs.

Gov.-Elect Tom Wolf has not yet set forth any legislative priorities, nor have his public statements provided any proposals to address the major concerns facing our state, including our greatest fiscal challenge -- the pension crisis.

Given the magnitude of these problems, I urge the House and Senate leadership to reconvene both bodies immediately after the installation of new members and aggressively advance a pro-growth/good government agenda for the citizens of Pennsylvania.

The problems facing Pennsylvania are so pressing that waiting weeks more to address them is a disservice to the taxpayers.

The Legislature's commitment eight years ago to not return for Sine Die session in the fall has been important for all the right reasons.

Sine Die sessions have been outlawed in many states because of their lack of accountability since outgoing members do not have to answer to the voters. An interregnum session in January poses no such concern.

The governor has no formal role in the legislative process and has no authority to act until after a bill, passed by a legislature representing the people, is sent to his desk for signature.

Waiting for Gov.-elect Wolf to take office before addressing the pressing needs of our state would be unnecessary and, some might argue, irresponsible.

John H. Eichleberger Jr., a Republican, represents the Blair County-based 30th Senate District.


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